McGregor Mountain is one of those mountains in Rocky Mountain National Park this wont get the praise and adulation that peaks like Hallett Peak, Taylor, Ypsilon, or Longs Peak get. It’s base reside near the Fall River entrance to Rocky Mountain National and most visitors to RMNP will drive right on past it without thinking much of it at all. Certainly there are few photographers who will go out of their way to photograph McGregor Mountain, though the irony is most visitors and photographer to Rocky Mountain National Park will likely capture images of McGregor Mountain when they visit.
At this point, many of you readying this are probably wondering why I’m opining about McGregor Mountain and where this is all headed. I certainly appreciate McGregor Mountain and have many images with it included in my composition. My giddiness with McGregor Mountain and my reason for devoting my first two paragraphs of this blog to it really has little to do with McGregor itself but more to do with the locations I was able to photograph McGregor from yesterday.
One of the best vantage points of McGregor and one where most photographers likely unknowingly frame McGregor in their composition is from Rainbow Curve along Trail Ridge Road. Why is this important?. Because for the past 7 months, Rainbow Curve has been difficult to impossible for most visitors to RMNP to access due to it’s winter closure. Sure, hardy souls have skied and snowshoed up a closed Trail Ridge Road to access Rainbow Curve, but for most the past 7 months, Rainbow Curve is best viewed from way down below in Horseshoe Park.
I giddy about photographing from Rainbow Curve as I did yesterday morning because it harkens the fact that Trail Ridge Road is currently being plowed by NPS crews from the west and east side of Rocky Mountain National Park and that it should open fully in the next few weeks. Trail Ridge Road opening to Rainbow curve is a harbinger of summer arriving in RMNP, kicking off my favorite 5 months for photography as we head through summer than fall.
Whats great about Rainbow Curve is that is gives a commanding and impressive view over the east side of Rocky Mountain National Park, Horseshoe Park and all the way out to the high plains of Colorado.
At 10,289 ft above sea level, Rainbow Curve not only gives impressive views of the east side of Rocky and Estes Park, but it allows easy access to higher elevations of the park again. During the winter months, Many Parks curve at 9640 ft above sea level, and the Bear Lake parking at 9475 ft above sea level are the two most easily accessed high altitude locations in the park.
Adding that nearly 650 ft with the opening of Rainbow curve gives landscape photographers a much better chance of being able to get above the cloud layer on mornings when an inversion is present or weather is moving in over the Front Range of Colorado.
As I’m writing this blog post in my office down here in Erie this morning its currently snowing. I’d rather it not be snowing on May 9th, but the precipitation is always welcome in the arid climate of Colorado. The current wave of moisture moving over Colorado and Rocky Mountain National Park settled into Rocky right at sunrise yesterday.
As the upslope winds from the east northeast moved up from the valley, clouds and fog quickly enveloped the lower elevations of Rocky and obscured the high peaks. With Rainbow Curve now open I was able to quickly drive up to the 10,289 ft overlook and get above the upslope flow quickly enveloping the park.
McGregor Mountain as she always does makes for a great telephoto subject view from Rainbow when there is an inversion. Her distinct oval shape with clouds and fog wrapping around her always makes for an iconic image of RMNP from Rainbow Curve.
Even better at this point is knowing that summer is just around the corner and access to many of Rocky Mountain National Parks great summer locations is quickly accelerating. Rainbow Curve will be closed this morning due to the heavy snow, but the NPS does a great job plowing Trail Ridge Road for its annual seasonal opening. Sure these spring snowstorms may make for a 1 step forward, 2 steps back scenario, but eventually even winter has to temporarily relent in Rocky Mountain National Park.